If you’ve spent the last four or five years (or even longer!) laboring in “stable misery” at your current job because, among other reasons, you were just thankful to stillhave a job, now would appear to be the best time in years to peek over the edge of your self-imposed foxhole and check out the current job market landscape. Many key indicators seem to be pointing to the re-emergence of a seller’s job market instead of the buyer’s market that has dominated the scene for so many years now.
There is always a risk in accurately reading the future job market and/or the broader economy, but unless there are unseen factors lurking below the surface, we seem finally to be moving from a job market where hiring companies have long called virtually all of the shots to a market where job seekers may now begin calling at least some of the shots! That seems to be particularly true for high-demand specialties with limited numbers of qualified candidates, such as IT, certain engineering fields, sales and many others.
KEY MEASUREMENTS OF JOB MARKET DYNAMICS
Here are some key measurements that illustrate both the current state of and future growth potential for the U.S. job market:
- The addition of 295,000 new jobs in February marked the 12th consecutive month that the economy has added 200,000+ jobs to the U.S. economy, the longest job growth period since the late 1990s.
- The overall unemployment rate continues its downward creep, with the latest decline from 5.7% to 5.5%, the lowest level since 2008.
- The unemployment rate fell in every state in the U.S. in 2014, something that hasn’t occurred since 1984.
- While there is still a way to go, wages are now showing at least somegrowth, with the expectation of further growth in the near future, as both the economy and the job market are expected to continue to improve.
- A far less well-known report from the U.S. Labor Department, the Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), is perhaps the most predictive report of future trends in the U.S. job market. At the end of December 2014 the report showed there were five million U.S. job openings, the highest number in 13 years. Among other things, this figure strongly suggests that employees who have heretofore been hesitant to seek out new career opportunities are now either doing so or soon will be.
JOB PICTURE LOOKING FAR, FAR BRIGHTER
To be sure, not every aspect of the job market or the broader U.S. economy is “all better,” but, as these measurements clearly demonstrate, significant improvements certainly have occurred and are continuing to occur. Some economists are predicting that we will return to “full employment” by the end of this year, perhaps even sooner. In fact, some employment experts say we are already at that point.
Even though some CEOs continue to insist that they will be taking a “steady as she goes” approach to both new hiring and wage growth this year, with a diminished—and diminishing—pool of fully qualified candidates for high-demand specialties, this may well prove to be wishful thinking on their part. As these companies continue to ramp up production to stay competitive in a worldwide marketplace, some market leaders are already experiencing problems attracting and retaining key personnel. Nothing I’m aware of indicates that this situation will improve significantly any time soon.
IF YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR JUST THE RIGHT TIME …
So, if you’ve been waiting for just the right time to finally venture out of your comfort zone and investigate the job market for new, better career opportunities, today would certainly seem to be the right time to do precisely that. And, as stated at the top of this post, that is particularly true if you are in one of the high-demand professional specialties. But, in order to maximize your chances for success, make sure that you have branded yourself as being among the TOP candidates in the job market–and are perceived as being in that category by hiring companies.
Be forewarned, however, that, if you do decide to investigate new career opportunities in today’s much improved job market, you will likely have a lot of company (read: “competition”). Surveys conducted by such heavy hitters as CareerBuilder, Monster and others have consistently indicated that about one-half (or more!) of workers today have at least some level of dissatisfaction with their current job, and most say they certainly would seek a new one if the opportunity presented itself. Clearly, all signs indicate that that is exactly what appears to be happening in today’s job market.
Included in this number are those who voluntarily left their jobs, as well as those who involuntarily left their jobs, i.e., through layoffs, etc.
Usually considered to be at or slightly below 6% unemployment.
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